Sino-Indian diplomacy has fallen apart, and it is at the point where strong accusations have been made against the two Asian giants. Moreover, soldiers from the two countries have been locked in a bitter standoff since June when Chinese troops began the construction of a road through a contested region in the Himalayas. India refused to withdraw its military forces unilaterally, claiming that its operation was upon Bhutan’s request. The disputed territory is located at the triangular intersection of the borders between China, India, and Bhutan. The narrow corridor, also known as the ‘Chicken Neck,’ plays a key role in India by connecting the North-Eastern states to the rest of the country. India is concerned about issues surrounding territorial security once the road is completed, as it will give China greater access to its Northern territory.
Up until recently, no brutal force has been exchanged between the two Asian giants. However, according to Indian intelligence officers, soldiers hurled stones and shouted at each other earlier this week. The skirmish was brief, but violent, and for the first time, stones were used. While in Beijing, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sought to prevent confrontations and advised India to enforce policies in effect to maintain peace and stability of the border areas.
Meanwhile, according to Brahma Chellaney, a strategic studies Professor at New Delhi Centre for Policy Research, China has been trying to dominate the disputed region because it believes that if it does, it will be able to retain firm control over Tibet. ‘The big obstacle it still faces is Bhutan. Driving a wedge between Bhutan and India is clearly a Chinese strategy.’ Nonetheless, the Bhutanese government, while asserting its claim over the territory, has remained silent on whether it has sought military assistance from India, apparently to avoid choosing sides in the conflict.
Furthermore, some argue that China dwarfs India in its military power. For example, its defence budget stands at $152 billion against India’s $51 billion. In a military parade held outside Tiananmen Square, China hosted a showcase, which displayed weaponry that was never seen before. On the other hand, ships carrying Chinese personnel set off on a voyage to Djibouti last month for its first overseas military base as China began the construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year. It is claimed that the base will serve to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. This is a remarkable milestone as China’s rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach. However, it will take time to draw a conclusion on whether China will keep its words on its ‘peacekeeping’ ambition.
Thus, while China is expanding its military influence on a global level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government sought to establish stronger ties with other states, in particular with the United States, Russia, and Japan. India’s strategic ties with the United States and Japan, in addition to its diplomatic affiliation with Israel, Australia, and Vietnam might be considered as a direct threat to the Chinese government.
Although tensions between China and India are increasing, it is very unlikely to lead to a war. In a historical and cultural context, China shares very different views on democracy and human rights in comparison to Western countries. A leading state should be robust on both hard and soft powers. Hard power insures China against the military or economical menace. However, it is essential for China to strengthen its influence in terms of soft power by showing benevolence. Hence, the global community may be persuaded that China would endorse a peaceful rise without disrupting the world order and lives of civilians.